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Online courts: calls for more research into how to support access

It should not be assumed that making 'assisted digital support' (ADS) services available will ensure everyone can engage with an online court system, according to a new report.12 Jun 2018

The report, published by the Civil Justice Council (CJC), an advisory body in the UK, looked into the role of ADS in helping the elderly, low-income earners, those living in social housing and those without educational qualifications to access a digitised civil justice system. A 2016 report by Lord Justice Briggs, deputy head of civil justice, recommended that a new online court be established to enable low-value claims to be resolved remotely.

While the report for the CJC found services such as face-to-face assistance; telephone help; web chat; and access to paper channels for those who require it can help improve digital inclusion and capability, the report highlighted the need for more research to better identify how ADS services can be used to help people who lack "legal capability".

The level of legal capability required to make use of digital Ministry of Justice and court services is "routinely underestimated in digital service assessments", according to the report.

"That users undertake a range of activities online is not to say that they have the capability to undertake legal processes online," the report said. "Digital capability is not the same as legal capability and both forms of capability are likely to be required to successfully navigate an online court. It is strongly recommended that further research take place to collect data that can more accurately quantify ADS need and to ensure piloting and independent evaluation of ADS services."

"Any framework designed to underpin service monitoring in the long term must go beyond simple usage metrics, to incorporate dimensions of service sustainability and user experience, particularly the seamlessness and efficacy of the services deployed," it said.